Daniel Senise

Almost Infinite

Alberto Saraiva

Published in the book Quase Aqui: Daniel Senise, Associação para o Patronato Contemporâneo, São Paulo, Brazil, 2018

Today Daniel Senise’s oeuvre offers viewers an opportunity to check the complex mesh cre­ated through painting. Nonetheless, I would suggest a closer look at certain points from which the pictorial principies of his work may be divined. What we see at first glance is only part of ‘what painting is’ and what arose from it as reflective practice. After all, ‘what it is’ will not be seen from one viewpoint, it will be revealed by the overall body of work that com­prises its history. Naturally, a painting that is committed to itself and its history would strive to reach certain points of special interest to Senise-not as an artist who knows what he is pursuing, but as one who is searching for what he does not know that he knows. ln this tangle of motives and insights, painting discloses his modus operandi.

ln Senise’s work, the term ‘pictorial’ is not di­rectly related to color. Rather than developing a palette expressing the color circle, the artist settles on a particular color niche that leaves out multicolor renditions to embody tones ex­alting earth in its innards and the singularity of light and shade. ln his work, even light and shade have operated for years as a reticent lu­minescence in face of the most obvious ideas of these elements. Senise’s contrasts vary from low luminosities to a distinctive, less solar and more mystical light. Likewise, the ‘pictorial’ in his work is denoted by a kind of density of ma­terial. Everything circulates within a system of migration from material to canvas, paper or photography. Being more inside a material is being more inside its color. And ali materiais and media that the artist associates in a broad approach will actually produce the actual color. Color is the thing.

The most operative verbs for Senise’s modus operandi are trace, transpose, collect and cut out. Let us take, for example, Matisse’s migra­tion from paintbrush to gouaches découpés, which resulted from cutting out color as if it were a flat surface to be sliced. ln his studio, af­ter a long time transferring pigments from one surface to another, Senise replicates Matisse’s gesture and takes up cutting out canvas, paper and fabric-covered book jackets. He then re­groups the cutout elements that will reveal doz­ens of colors and weaves alluding to painting’s vocabulary. “l like it when a set of cutouts gains density in different textures of fabric and paper thicknesses,”the artist said. But here we see his gesture as a repetition of Matisse’s earlier gesture. lt is precisely in this dialogue between painters’ actions that painting circulates its ideas. Through this “system”, Senise’s oeuvre and that of other painters will resort to specific points generated over time in the history of painting. I propose viewing his body of work on the basis of this web of connections.

Another major subject in Senise’s work is per­spective, a concern qualified and outlined in works such as A invenção da perspectivaProdro­me and 2.892. Here we should take into consid­eration all Pavel Florensky’s arguments on the advent of perspective in painting and the dis­tinction between Alberti’s linear perspective and the inverse perspective of Russian painters such as Andrei Rublev. The point to be made here is not so much the tension between one and another, but the notorious openness to other perspectivistic perceptions, even if these are historical developments from linear per­spective as in the case of Daniel Senise’s work. Then there is the case of Hobbema’s well-known painting The Avenue at Middelharnis, which Sen­ise has examined. This work reveals an eloquent use of dassical perspective, but one that goes beyond the linear lesson to show a grandiose organicity of disturbing anatomy. Perhaps this organic datum, represented in the path be­tween trees moving as if they were alive, is what prompted Daniel Senise’s interest to create an interpretation that adds another perspective to Hobbema’s, one that projects to the right and beyond the painting. Senise has adopted this type of approach and overlap in other works too. Starting from a set of perspectival views, he has formulated his own proposals on two- and three-dimensional environments. As it seems, his efforts to construct a place of this kind bring together Duccio, Simone Martini, Piero Della Francesca, Leonardo Da Vinci and Giotto to Hobbema and Caspar David Friedrich, among other artists. Hence, i suppose the series “Rei­nos” [Kingdoms] and the perspectives created from scaffolding timberthat he started painting. Spatial works emerged singularly in Senise’s studio, more specifically the spatial projections to which I refer here as “pictorial facts.” To paint is to project a pictorial fact in space. We should think of these works embedded in the painting context as a fact that amalgamates concepts and processes arising from it. Contrarily to the viewer’s perception at first sight, these pieces are not installations, interventions or site-spe­cifics — although they might be, were they not derived solely and exclusively from pictorial thinking. ln short, this “pictorial fact” is the projection of a thought and its materialization in space, and its constitution should be pon­dered in pictorial terms. lt is a mistake to exam­ine painting as strictly image, when it is really pictorial structure, meaning that it has tecton­ics. The best examples of Senise’s “pictorial facts” are 2.892, shown at Casa França Brasil in 2011; the work made to “Made by … Feito por bra­sileiros”, at Hospital Matarazzo in 2014, and his most recent commission from Oi Futuro in 2015, in which a certain light “of painting” is imposed spatially on the work. Of course, we must add to this “fact” a certain vibration that speaks of life and death, those vital impulses that overcome even politics.

This is a point to watch carefully because paint­ing has always belonged in space and architec­ture; however, it is coming back into space and architecture as a quantum instance, setting up new constituent axes and temporal-spatial projections-and precisely for this reason, as mentioned, painting is circulating initially on its own terms, and its vocabulary is only ex­panding. But that is not ali. lf we turn to look at Prodrome, we will find torsion in the center of its perspective. lt is a reference to vision and the functioning of the optical system that, if af­fected, may see things differently, as being dis­torted and detached from reality. Yet it is still a kind of reality, and this fact interests Senise, who alludes to this optical apparatus when it offers glimpses of other modes of perceiving what is visible.

A crucial item must be added to this series: the shroud. The fabric that wipes off sweat, that takes imprints, that retains material and retains stains, blood and cells within its weave. Senise has been investigating the use of the shroud since the early days of his artistic career and applied this technique in many ways. He has collected hundreds of sheets from hospitais and motels. This material holds ali sorts of stains, from bloodstains to semen, and together they relate pleasure and pain, life and death. The work 2.892 features these sheets stretched along two large structures at Casa França-Bra­sil, those from hospitais on one side and from motels on the other, opposite each other to form two large white walls along which visitors move as if it were Hobbema’s avenue. This may be the artist’s point of view: perspective is a re­ality within which we place ourselves with our perplexity in face of life and death. On the other hand, the white elements formed into two large walls are on some levei a quality of light. Let us return to the beginning of this piece where we spoke of the pictorial aspect of Senise’s work and its effects of light and shade. ln fact, this beginning in which shade is clearly overpow­ering gradually gives way to light, so that even reddish and yellow earthen tones progres­sively yield to whites. White rectangles are given prominence as openings of light, a type of opaque light that illuminates that which it circumscribes with a sober mystical lumines­cence. Where is this refined light found in the history of painting? From which painter has it originated? Certainly, not from Malevich’s su­premacist white. The nature of this light is not from an external source. It is rather a welcom­ing white that expresses on its level the light of painting, a light that occurs only in and through painting and becomes a given of the real; an object coming from a wave whose emission is mental, material and intellectual. lt is a mode of perception and thought. This inner light of Senise’s painting slowly burns through all other colors and material to take over everything “until everything is pure white,” in the artist’s words, on the assumption that light could fix ev­erything. Light acts cumulatively, so they say, as it alters the molecules of things, transforming and fading them. Daniel Senise’s painting con­veys this sarne idea: a light that illuminates from within and tends to dominate the core of things. And this is another given of painting: there are things that spring from nowhere other than the painter’s subjectivity, provided they can adjust their being to that of painting. This sense of refining or purging things is also selfpurging. Painting demands that the action of painting be a transforming action. The action of painting is more than painting. A painting is more than just the action of painting. lt is an almost infinite movement.